Saturday, March 31, 2007


…so there are life-changing albums…disks so powerful and meaningful that the entire course of one’s hurtlingforwardpath gets knocked onto a sidetrack that starts as a slight diversion, but then becomes The Main Line.

Witness “Live/Dead”. forget Jerry Garcia…this is Phil Lesh’s record…he of the ‘liquid center bass’/’the 1 is more often played as a rest vs. an accented beat’/noodlenoodlenoodle. When Tom Kris (the original bass player for The James Gang) couldn’t make his Rock City rent one month, I got his Gibson Thunderbird bass in lieu of same, and learned the instrument (and more importantly – Lesh’s approach to the place of bass in a band) by playing along with this album.

The regimen:

1) learn all scales and modes in all keys

2) learn chord structure and chord notes

3) play with your fingers, switching to a pick only when a tone change is needed/required.

4) armed with this musical knowledge, FORGET IT ALL and go to a mental place where you reflect and reinterpret the music that’s swirling all around you in real time vs. sticking to a repetitive part a la the soul/funk bass tradition.

…which makes you an improviser and all but guarantees that you will butt heads with every drummer you will ever play with…since they will not ‘get’ this ramblingloosefloaty playing style unless they ‘got’ this record, too.

The Grateful Dead in ’69 were where rock, folk & open-ended liveinstant composition all came together. It ain’t jazz, but the aesthetic is the same…listen, react, lead/follow and see where it goes. It is simultaneously total freedom & total responsibility. It is totally exhilarating and liberating and…

…it was all over when The Dead decided to write songs and try to sing in harmony and betrayed this aesthetic and became old-farts. the aesthetic lay dormant until Television (and to a great degree - Tin Huey) reinvented it in the ‘70’s. note that phaux jam bands like Phish are NOT cited here...they are wrongwrongwrong.

the rock music world is split between the singer-songwriters who just want you to play a part and get out of the way of their compositions, and the player/improvisers/thrill-seeking daredevils who get off by making it up as it goes along.

And I think this album was the fork in the road.

to wit...dig pal Lane Steinberg solo recording of Dark Star.

Q. E. D.




NP: Side 2

PEEVE DE JOUR: lost my wallet. for weeks i have been tempting fate by keeping my wallet in a pocket with a hole in it. well-meaning friends pointed out the obvious - that the damn thing was gonna fall out one of these i switched to a pocket with no hole. but somehow, it still fell out somewhere between Neumann Leather and Legal Beans on Newark St. in Hoboken. moral - duh...

JOIE DE JOUR: my closest Rosatti's frozen custard stand opens for the season on April 15th. watch this blog for the Special Flavor Of The Day!


PSK writes -

'Allo folks...Usually I try to write something semi-witty here, but brother Shlomo was so eloquent I'll give him the , ehh...floor?

The Original Gray Sky Boys

Old-Time Country Heart Songs & Gospel
from the 1930s and up...

Saturday, March 31st, 10-12 pm at:

Two Boots Brooklyn

514 2nd Street
(between 7th & 8th Avenues)
Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY 11215
Admission: No Cover / No Minimum
Great food + great tunes = A BIG OL' TIME!
Come on down!
For more info: Two Boots Brooklyn


(vocals, mandolin, guitar)

(vocals, guitar, banjo-guitar)

(vocals, fiddle, 5-string banjo, mandolin, guitar)

In the 1930s, a new sound was sweeping early country music, the Brother Duets. These were male duos-- typically actual brothers-- that were noted for close harmony singing to their own instrumental accompaniment, usually on mandolin and guitar. Examples included The Monroe Brothers (Charlie & Bill Monroe), The Blue Sky Boys (Bill & Earl Bolick), and The Delmore Brothers (Alton & Rabon Delmore. Rabon played a 4-string tenor guitar to his brother Alton's regular guitar instead of the more typical mandolin.) Following in this great tradition, Peter Stuart Kohman and Will Dial formed The Original Gray Sky Boys in the 1990s to recapture this unique sound from the 1930s. This special reunion concert will mark the first performance of The Original Gray Sky Boys in ten years. Joining for them for this performance will be fiddler/multi-instrumentalist Shlomo Pestcoe, Peter's bandmate in Sufferin' Succotash, which will be back at Two Boots Brooklyn on Saturday, April 21st.

Hope to see y'all there!

cb...where are you?



Blogger Harvey Gold said...

Stephen Nicol Price, Huey bassist Mark's older brother was hugely influenced by Jack Casady, turning me on to this form of Rotosound, moving, occasionally CHORDED bass playing. Seemed like the two guys in the whole world who did this for real were him and Phil. Loved them both for it.

Nice piece, cb, recognizing the wonder of it all.

Great work, Lane. Gimme a nice fat St. Stephen and I think our work will be done... for a minute.

12:53 AM  
Blogger CBeezwax said...

Some follow-up thoughts. Was driving around today listening again to this CD, and it is just amazing what they are doing. There is HUGE musicianship on Live/Dead…key into just the rhythm guitar or one of the drummers and wow…how the hell is this thing hanging together? and/or hear how they are cueing off each other like crazy. Really, really incredible.

And it was also amazing how crappy their studio recordings sound. There is much hubbub re: “we can’t get our live sound on tape” in their history, to which I say yeah…you didn’tcouldn’t. hence the shift from speedfreek noodling to songs on Workingman’s Dead.

The recording medium is set up for songs, not live-based performances. The disconnect is that every band wants to sound ‘live’ when they walk into a studio, but the process is simply not rigged for that. even so-called ‘live’ jazz performances are very much a product of studio technology – even Rudy Van Gelder’s amazing recordings are not ‘live’ = they do not present a combo the way a listener’s ear would hear it in the room. You would not get the sound of an acoustic bass player’s fingerprints (which I swear is what R. v. G. was able to capture), nor the balance of the drum kit so ‘up in the mix’ as well. His recordings are works of art, but they are not ‘live’.

So the Dead gave up, and went into Songland, and that folded back into whybotherseeingthemsincetheydon’tdothatnoodlingstuff no more...

9:46 PM  
Anonymous rd said...

I have never been much of a Grateful Dead fan but I wouldn’t say that it’s because I don’t like their music. It’s more because I haven’t had the time to give it enough of a chance. I listen to a lot of music – and many diverse styles of music. And I listened to even more when the Dead were at their peak. I have always found myself making decisions that have driven me away from the Dead. Buying a jazz record when I could have bought a Dead record. Going to a classical concert when I could have heard the Dead play, Playing 50s Rockabilly music with my cover band when we could be playing the Dead, and so on and so on.

When it comes to my thousands of 45s, LPs & CDs I will challenge just about anyone to the crown for the eclectic record collection of the century. But no Grateful Dead in that collection.

But one thing I know is that you have great taste in music and your recommendations are highly regarded. So I have decided to rectify my Deadless state and get a copy of Live Dead as soon as possible. I have mixed feelings about coming around to music that I missed so long ago so late after the fact. It is my belief that there is a very real psychological effect that works against acceptance of music in a situation like this. I am certain that I will not be listening to it in the same state of mind that I was in when this record was originally released, or the state of mind that you were in when you first heard it. Sometimes it is very difficult to recreate (or try to put yourself into) the aura of the times. You know the old saying about how you can never go home again? Well, you can go to the city where you were born, go to the house where you lived - but it’s not the same. I think that’s essentially what I am trying to say about listening to music like this.

I recently had occasion to watch with two children, 9 and 14 years old, the DVD releases of the entire uncut Ed Sullivan shows on which The Beatles performed. I very casually mentioned what cultural landmarks The Beatles were and how popular music changed dramatically, almost overnight, and these shows were responsible in large part for that change. But to them it was just black-and-white television with an ‘OK’ band. Maybe that’s how I will react to Live Dead – it’s an old record that’s ‘OK’.

PS: It’s interesting that you mention Rudy Van Gelder in your post. I have always been a big fan of his recordings and still find it amazing that he got his start while still in his teens recording some jazz legends in his parents’ living room. Are you aware that Van Gelder has been at work over the past several years re-mastering his Blue Note recordings? I’ve acquired quite a few of them: Clifford Brown, Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, Horace Silver, John Coltrane… and they all sound fantastic.

9:31 PM  

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